Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US senator threatens sanctions for officials

US senator threatens sanctions for officials

US Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month in Washington, DC.
US Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson/AFP

US senator threatens sanctions for officials

United States Senator Ted Cruz reaffirmed his ultimatum yesterday to seek to impose sanctions on specific Cambodian officials “as an initial response” to the jailing of opposition leader Kem Sokha unless Sokha is immediately released.

The former US presidential hopeful first called on the Cambodian government to release Sokha by the end of the National Election Committee’s voter registration period, which closed yesterday, in a letter to Cambodian Ambassador Bun Rong last month.

Rong responded in a letter to Cruz on Tuesday, asking the senator to “view the current situation in Cambodia from our perspective”.

In his letter, Rong compares Sokha to Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for Donald Trump who was recently charged with tax fraud and money laundering, and says Sokha’s actions are similar to crimes listed in the US Espionage Act.

“It is not fair that the Cambodian Government is criticized and threatened with punitive action for taking legal action to protect its own security, peace, independence and sovereignty, just as any other nations would do,” Rong’s letter said.

In a press release yesterday, Cruz slammed the ambassador’s words as “dismissive excuses and empty platitudes”.

If the opposition leader is not released and radio stations not allowed to resume broadcasting, “it will be impossible for the United States and our allies to recognize the legitimacy of these elections”, Cruz’s statement reads, referring to next year’s vote.

Asked whether the Kingdom was worried about US sanctions, government spokesman Phay Siphan said finding people who commit treason “is the priority”.

“[Cruz] is a stranger to Cambodia. He has no right, he has no power to order Cambodia to do this, to do that,” Siphan said.

“He could do everything he likes. Go ahead and do it. Cambodia’s a sovereign state, and we are just trying to get rid of treasonous persons.”

Cruz could not be reached yesterday. He is one of a handful of US politicians – among them senators John McCain and Dick Durbin – who have spoken out about the government’s crackdown on the opposition.

Kem Monovithya, daughter of Sokha and the CNRP’s deputy director-general of public affairs, said yesterday that she has been in communication with Cruz, McCain and others about targeted travel and financial sanctions for Cambodian officials. “It’s time to start applying those pressures,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Angkor photo rules clarified

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) denied that it had banned the use of camera tripods in the Angkor Archaeological Park, explaining that the confusion stemmed from a long-standing rule which required commercial photographers and videographers to apply for permission to film. The explanation followed a

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “